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Grigory Pasko: Traveling the Nord Stream, Part II

[This is Pasko’s second installment in the series. Part I can be read here] Media Relations, Gazprom Style By Grigory Pasko, journalist Because I didn’t have the foggiest notion about what “construction of the Gryazovets-Vyborg gas branch” was or who could tell me about it, it was natural that I should contact the «Gazprom» press service. My letter to them contained one and only one request: to indicate the names of those people who would be able to tell me about the progress of the construction of the pipeline.

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Photo of «Gazprom» press department head S. Kupriyanov courtesy of epochtimes.ru

The head of the department for work with Russian mass information media (they’ve even got things divided up by what countries mass information media belong to), Andrey Chernykh, heard me out, and asked that I send a letter by email with a summary of the essence of my trip. He promised to get back to me the next day with a reply. I sent. He didn’t reply. I phoned the next day and heard from an employee of the press service named Nastya that Chernykh was absent. And that I had to send a paper to the name of the higher-standing management; it would discuss the question and decide whether it was expedient (she actually used this word!) for me to travel to Vologda and beyond along the route of the Gryazovets-Vyborg branch. The girl clarified that there was now nothing but mud in the area of the construction, the equipment was standing still, the roads were closed… And in general, one is supposed to apply to the press secretary of the chairman of the management board – the deputy head of the department for informational policy of OAO «Gazprom», Sergey Kupriyanov. Kupriyanov turned out to be on vacation. His assistant said (and I quote): “The question has to be discussed. Send a letter.” I said that she already had a letter. Slightly surprised, the girl did manage to find the letter and actually read it. She said that the person I needed to contact was… Chernykh. I replied that I had already spoken with him. Then the girl promised that she would speak with him as well and would call me back. She didn’t, and she didn’t. I called Chernykh myself once again, and he directed me to the deputy head of the Department – the head of the Administration for the Development of Public Relations, Roman Sakhartov. He turned out not to be at his workplace, after which I once again phoned Chernykh and Chernykh once again promised me that he’d sort everything out with my request. I guess he did sort everything out, because soon I received a letter with the following content: “You can find all information with respect to construction of the Nord Stream gas pipeline on our website, as well as on the official website of the company Nord Stream. So, before even setting off on my journey, I already understood one thing: they must have more money than they know what to do with at «Gazprom» if they can afford to maintain an office full of people who, to put it mildly, are bad at carrying out their duties. In the meantime, I telephoned the journalists of one Vologdan newspaper and asked when and what they had written about the Gryazovets-Vyborg branch: “Yeah, I think we did write something”, recalled the editor of one of the newspapers. “But it was a commissioned piece at the request of «Gazprom» and for their money”. And so it was that I understood another thing: if I’m writing not at the request of «Gazprom» and not for its money, the trip and the article might not happen at all. Luckily, I was wrong about this one: the trip did take place. Of course, no thanks to the «Gazprom» press service. Indeed, more likely despite it. I’m sure many journalists who get the idea to write something about this closed “empire” that is «Gazprom» find themselves in such a situation of being an “unanswered petitioner”. «Gazprom», which owns many media structures in Russia, for example the radio station «Echo Moskvy», in the given case appears in the role of a feudal lord: if I feel like giving information, I’ll give it, and if I don’t, I won’t. It is understandable that such “activity” has nothing in common with the law «On the mass information media».

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Photo of “Its Highness” the monopolist «Gazprom» advertising on Nevsky Prospekt in St. Petersburg by Grigory Pasko

Alas, «Gazprom» is not alone in its lordship. Its “kinsman” in this could very likely be Rosatom: over there, they too love to create all sorts of obstructions for those journalists who are “not their own” – not raised and nurtured by them. Furthermore, at Rosatom, they once proposed to me that I… send them my article for “coordination” (that’s their prudish term for “censorship”) before publication. It goes without saying that I passed on such “coordination”. As a result, they killed my chances of going on a trip to certain Rosatom facilities. If when Putin spoke of “dictatorship of the law”, he meant the diktat of petty officials at monopolist agencies, then his idea has been successfully implemented in practice.